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While many people are looking at the holidays as a joyous time for family gathering, presents and reflection, there are those burdened by feelings of sadness and heightened anxiety. It is known as the “holiday blues” and can be described as a mild temporary state of sadness to clinical depression.
Why would anybody be feeling sad during the holidays?
Here are a few reasons for holiday blues:
Family gatherings can be very tough. Stress can quickly overwhelm anybody trying to divide time between parents, immediate family, extended family and in-laws. Families that are highly esteemed, competitive, demanding, or masters of the guilt trip can add an emotional strain to any individual trying to cope with a busy holiday schedule.
Family dynamics can become strained as members violate personal space and press pass emotional boundaries.
Traumatic or sad holiday memories can trigger old wounds that hurt just as much as the day they first began. The loss of a family member or friend can take a severe toll on our emotions.
Unrealistic expectations can send the best of us into a world of unnecessary stress. There are parents that spend too much on their children for the best Christmas presents, newly-wed wives that burn out trying to impress their in-laws and middle-agers over extending themselves at work and home trying to relive their good ole’ holidays.
Biological and environmental reasons can also explain holiday blues. Some people are sensitive to the environmental changes that occur during winter.
Ways to Decrease the Likelihood of Holiday Blues
Take time to plan your holidays. Sit down with a good friend or supportive family member and schedule your activities. Tell your planning buddy what you would like to accomplish and that person can help you stick to your plan. Try to create a schedule that has your best interests at heart and have a contingency plan just in case things do not work as scheduled. Remember to be flexible, some things are not meant to happen the way we plan.
Set boundaries and emotional safety limits for yourself. Family gatherings do not have to be stressful. If there are people in your family that cause stress, limit your exposure to them or avoid them. This works for friends and co-workers too. You would not, willingly, stick your hand in a rat trap, so do not expose yourself to constant stressors.
Create traditions with your family. Traditions such as potluck dinners, Christmas – themed movie nights, volunteering or having an informal coffee with desserts can help focus chaotic gatherings, alleviate stressful family dynamics and be the source of new enjoyable holiday memories.
Delegate responsibility to family and friends; do not manage everything on your own. The worse that can happen is everything on your list will not get done or you may become too tired to give everything your best effort. Ask for help and then you will not be too tired to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Adapt to change. The circumstances that made a previous Christmas the best may never occur again. You must work with your circumstances to make the holidays bright. Perfection is an unobtainable illusion. You can only do your best and enjoy the good parts that happen as a result of that. Fun comes from new memories and experiences. Unexpected experiences and happenstance can also be a great part of life as it changes.
Take a break. Take some personal time for you. When babies are over stimulated they look to the side and give their minds a break. As adults, we forget to give our over-stimulated minds a break. You can leave the party for a little peace and quiet. Take a break during the shopping rush or just relax between fulfilling your schedule. Use your alone time to rest your mind and recharge your body.
Dealing with depression from grief, anxiety, loneliness or self-reflection can be hard during the holidays. Instead of internalizing these matters alone, many mental health professionals advise individuals to reach out to counselors and support groups that help with different types of depression. There are meet-ups and communities on-line that can help direct individuals to the resources they need.
Depression is not a mental flaw it is often the result of something gone wrong physically or mentally. In some cases, depression may be managed or reversed by making lifestyle changes, counseling to begin positive realization or medical treatment to help manage hormone balances in the brain.
Creating unrealistic expectations is a sure fire way to become depressed. During the holidays, people try to aim for the stars and become distraught when they crash back to Earth. Reasonable planning, delegating labor, recognizing financial limitations and managing time to accomplish realistic goals will cut down the odds of suffering from the blues.
Biological and environmental reasons can result in depression as well. There are people that become depressed from the decreased amount of daylight exposure. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder. Doctors treat this with more exposure to light that mimic’s bright sunlight.